Creating a Cooking Station in the Preschool Classroom
By Julie Yamada
When we think of cooking, we tend to think we need a stove or an oven but in reality, cooking is to prepare food for eating. Heat is not always required. This can make cooking in the classroom more doable.
When preparing to set up a cooking station it is important to make sure the station is close to a sink so that children have easy access to washing hands. Have a trash can close by so that any mess can be cleaned up and disposed of quickly. Depending on what you are planning to have the children cook, you may need to instruct the children that only 2 or 3 children can be in the station at a time.
When planning on what supplies you will need for the cooking station, be sure to check the recipe for instructions. You may need more than one cooking tool for the children to use too. Some possible supplies to have on hand are:
Children enjoy cooking experiences because they are learning and want to learn to do what adults do. While in the cooking station, children will begin to develop their socio-emotional skills by working with others, sharing the supplies and taking turns. They will also build on their self-help skills by preparing and serving their own snack.
- Plastic measuring spoons
- Plastic measuring cups
- Child sized water pitchers
- Mixing bowls
- Cookie or sandwich shape cutters
- Wooden or plastic mixing spoons
- Plastic manual juicer
- Vegetable peelers
- Wire whisks
- Child sized silverware
- Plates, bowls and cups
- Child sized pitchers
- Cutting board and cutting tools
- Smocks, towels and sponges for clean up
Children can be picky eaters but sometimes it helps if they are able to taste a new food in a fun way. In the cooking station, children are exposed to new foods as the teacher shares about nutrition and the importance of good food choices to have healthy bodies.
When children help to make their own snack, they are also developing fine motor control and coordination. Some ways they are able to do this are by:
Children will also develop their eye-hand coordination when they pour and mix.
- Using a plastic knife to cut a vegetable or fruit
- Pouring water from a pitcher to a glass
- Measuring out an ingredient
- Mixing ingredients in a bowl.
Language and math are also very important when cooking. Children are learning to read a recipe card and recognize the number of scoops needed and count them out to make their snack. A fun and helpful idea would be to make snack cards for children to follow to make their snack. These directions would have, for example, a picture of a teaspoon on a card and the words “1 teaspoon” underneath the picture. They will be so excited that they made their own snack by following the directions on the recipe cards.
It is always fun to have a cooking snack that goes with a story or even having a child share their favorite snack from home that everyone can help make. When children are directly involved in cooking their own food they will be more willing to try new foods and they may even like the new food.
When planning a cooking activity in the classroom, it is also important to be aware of any food allergies that children in the classroom may have. If a child does have an allergy, it may be good to keep their cooking supplies separate from the others and they may need different ingredients such as almond milk instead of cow milk. Explain to the children about food allergies and that they are not to mix their ingredients with someone who has an allergy to them.
Keep in mind that cooking can be messy and that children can help to clean up. Provide the sponges and towels and teach them how to keep the cooking station clean. The children will be happy to do their part to clean up. Clean up is a learning activity with children strengthening their hands when squeezing water out of a sponge or eye-hand coordination when wiping a spill in a small area on a table.
It is possible to have cooking as a classroom station when the children are exposed regularly to the station, how to use the supplies and help others. Cooking is an important skill that can be fun for children.
Cooking Interest Center in Preschool
Age-Appropriate Cooking Skills
By Julie Yamada
Children enjoy learning how to do things for themselves, but it is important to know their skills and know when to introduce various cooking tools. Cooking tools are safe for children when they are introduced, shown how to use them and are age-appropriate. When planning a cooking activity, it is important to gather the supplies prior to the day of the activity and spend some time introducing the activity to the children and reviewing the rules of the cooking station.
Some activities to consider in the cooking station with children 2 years of age.
Cooking activities to consider for children ages 3-5
- Washing fruit and vegetables.
- Stirring/mixing ingredients. Make your own ranch salad dressing and let the children help mix the ingredients.
- Using a potato masher to mash bananas and other soft foods.
- Spooning ingredients into containers.
- Cutting soft foods such as bananas with a spreader/butter knife.
- Using measuring cups and measuring spoons.
- Poring liquids into cups or bowls.
- Washing, peeling and cutting fruit and vegetables with a wavy cutter.
- Using a nylon knife to cut soft fruit and vegetables such as strawberries and tomatoes.
- Tearing lettuce or herbs.
- Spreading butter, jelly, peanut butter and cream cheese onto bread or crackers.
- Grating cheese, fruit or vegetables.
A Guide to Cookery Skills by Age
Practical Life in the Kitchen
“Early Childhood Education Accreditation Orientation” presentation by Julie Yamada. The North American Division ECEC Standards of Accreditation 2016 is now available in pdf form. If you would like a copy of the pdf, call 805-413-7342 or email.
NAD 2018 Teachers Convention—August 6-9, 2018 in Chicago. You can register for email updates by clicking on the image, which takes you to the webpage for the convention. Contact your conference liaison for more information.